If you’re great at turning a phrase or you love writing that hooks you from the start, you might have thought about becoming a freelance copywriter. An increasing number of businesses rely on things like content marketing and SEO results to stay competitive, so copywriting jobs are everywhere for people with the right skill sets. Curious about how to land these creative opportunities?
While freelancing is notoriously tough, it’s not as hard as you might think! Here are some steps you can take to become a successful freelance copywriter.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is usually writing for marketing purposes. It can encompass a wide variety of projects, such as writing emails, advertisements, product descriptions, webpage content, and any other promotional materials for a business. Some larger firms may also hire copywriters for internal communications as well, to maintain the voice of their brand within the firm as well as outside of it. A freelance copywriter might be hired on a one-oﬀ basis for one project or a small series of projects, or on a longer-term basis for a regular purpose such as writing blog articles.
Make sure you have the right skills
While you don’t need a degree to be a freelance copywriter, it can help to have a degree in Communications, which will teach you the fundamentals of writing for marketing and give you a credential to add to your portfolio. However, even without formal schooling, you can learn the skills you need on your own. Here are a few other ways you can learn them:
- Grammar and Style: If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter, chances are you already have a knack for writing with accuracy and style. However, copywriting demands a specific set of writing skills that combine creativity and clarity. If you need to, there are a lot of online resources to help you brush up on them, such as copyblogger.com and thewriter.com/workshops.
- Research Skills: Depending on the type of copywriting you’ll be doing, you may need to be able to do research on your topic and incorporate your findings in your work in an original way. Research skills include being able to distinguish between credible and questionable sources online, and the ability to use the information without plagiarizing the writing of others.
- Search Engine Optimization/Analytics: Since you’ll most likely be writing for the web, it’s important to have some knowledge about SEO writing, which includes incorporating keywords into your writing that will help the website you’re writing for show up when certain search terms are used to find it. You can also pursue marketing qualifications such as the Google Analytics Individual Qualification to add to your portfolio.
Create a Business Plan
Since you don’t need a lot of financing upfront to be a copywriter, you may not need a formal business plan to take out a loan—but it’s still useful to make an informal business plan, so you have some direction. Here are a few things to think about before you start writing:
- Find Your Niche: Is there a particular topic or type of writing that fits with your skillset? Are you great at writing recipes, for example, or pun-heavy app descriptions for games? Even though some of the jobs you land might fall outside the niche you set for yourself, it’s important to decide on one. That way, once you’re able to pick and choose projects, you’ll be able to focus on your speciality, and eventually charge more for it as you hone your skills.
- Decide on your Rates: Take some time to research what the market rates are for what you’re oﬀering. Generally for copywriting, you’ll want to decide whether to charge per hour, per word, or per project; each has their pitfalls and benefits. Charging per hour means you know you’ll be paid equally for all the hours you work on a project; however, it means it’s more diﬃcult to give accurate quotes upfront. Charging per word eliminates this diﬃculty if a client knows approximately how long the writing should be, however this method might sell you short if you’re writing articles that require a lot of research. Charging per project is a good idea if you already have some idea of the amount of time it will take, but newbies run the risk of not being aware of how much eﬀort goes in to certain projects.
- Make an Online Portfolio: Once you’ve decided on your niche and rates, it’s time to make them public! Start by taking a look at the websites of other copywriters to decide what works for you and what doesn’t, then create yours based on what you liked. At minimum, your website should include a description of your services, a few writing samples, and a way to contact you. If you aren’t too savvy with web design, sites like WordPress oﬀer templates you can use—or if you have the funds, consider hiring a graphic designer to get it just right.
Organize your Finances
Freelancing means you’ll be a small business, so organizing your finances is important to ensure avoiding fines and financial problems down the road. Here are a few key considerations in setting up your finances as a freelance copywriter:
- Registering your Business: If you earn more than £1,000 in a taxable year, you’ll need to register your business so you can do your taxes. You’ll be responsible for keeping track of income and expenses, and submitting this information online when tax season rolls around.
- Organizing Bookkeeping: Since keeping records and paying taxes is now your responsibility, you’ll have to develop some system to keep track of them. Accounting software for copywriters can help you keep your receipts, invoices, and expenses all in one place so you don’t have to go digging for them if you get audited.
- Paying Taxes: When you pay taxes, you’ll be taxed on your net income—or, your income minus your expenses. Additionally, if you earn more than £85,000 in a taxable year, you’ll need to register for VAT, but can also reclaim the cost of VAT on business expenses. Make sure you do your research on tax law in the UK so you avoid any fines down the road!
Find Your Clients
Once you’ve got your website set up and your financial ducks in a row, it’s time to find your clients! A good first step is to share your website on social media—you never know if someone in your network knows someone that’s looking for a copywriter. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr can be a place to start as well, but you can also try creating your blog, guest blogging on other sites, or submitting articles to popular sites you enjoy reading. Think about your niche and the businesses you’d like to write for, and try attending networking events related to the industry you specialize in. For example, if you’d like to write in-app content for games, make sure to attend gaming conferences to meet developers who might be looking for your services.
It might seem like an uphill battle at times, but entering the battlefield with a strategic plan will give you a competitive edge! Remember that the most important part of your plan is perseverance and hard work.